Chow explores vibrancy in arts

Olivia Chow tours THEMUSEUM in Kitchener. (Photo by Nick Lachance).
Olivia Chow tours THEMUSEUM in Kitchener. (Photo by Nick Lachance).

New Democrat MP Olivia Chow was in downtown Kitchener last weekend to explore exhibits currently showcased at THEMUSEUM and to discuss the importance of culture and arts in a budding city.

Chow’s main goal with her visit to THEMUSEUM was to address the importance that museums have in a community.

“Art creates a new sense of identity, you can learn about the history and the culture of a people through its art,” she said. “Cultural institutions are important to the economic life and, of course, to the civic life of our cities. To the quality of life, and a vibrant economy in a vibrant city,”

Chow was born in Hong Kong and came to Toronto to study philosophy and art prior to her introduction to politics. She emphasized the significance that museums and art galleries played in her understanding of Canada as a new immigrant.

“I didn’t know a whole lot of people,” Chow explained, regarding her move to Toronto as a student. “I had this wonderful opportunity to be able to walk to the Royal Ontario Museum, to the Art Gallery, where I was able to learn and enjoy so much about art and history and culture.”

“These museums became my life long friends, and I was very privileged to be able to represent them.”

Chow stressed the fact that the financial needs for museums are growing.

“At the end of this month [in the upcoming budget] we want to make sure that we have all the funding in place,” she said. “We recognize the important role of museums in the cultural light of Canada, of Canadians, and we believe that they should receive stable, long-term funding from the federal government and of course from the provincial and city government too.”

Chow was given a guided tour of “The Treasures of China” exhibit, which houses a collection of ancient Chinese Sculptures, as well as a collection of contemporary paintings.  She also visited the Bob Marley exhibition and the Justin Bieber display. Chow was accompanied by David Marskell, the CEO of THEMUSEUM, along with Carl Zehr, Mayor of Kitchener and Kitchener city councillor Berry Vrbanovic.

Catherine Fife, in the MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo expressed her satisfaction at Chow’s discussion.

“The message that the economy and the creative knowledge economy are connected needs to be a part of our strategy in moving forward,” she said.

In response to Chow’s request of audience members to generate ideas for how to represent art and culture through exhibits and museums, Fife explained that she would “love to see a history of our industrial past and see a connection to the modern conversation.”

Chow also expressed her admiration for THEMUSEUM and its ability to think in a creative way. “The fact that you can have these kinds of high quality, international exhibits right here tells me that you are thinking outside the box.”

Chow discussed the opportunity Canadian museums have to learn from the cultural initiatives that European countries have taken to ensure the support of the arts. Many European countries combine cultural and museum passes with transit passes, making the arts more accessible to the community.

“We are a country with a lot of diversity,” Chow said. “We are able, therefore, to have people from different parts of the world all becoming Canadian citizens. That makes our culture that much more unique and that much more rich and that much more Canadian.”

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